Federal

Heat Prompts School Closures

By Katie Ash — August 28, 2007 3 min read

Less than a month into the school year, an extreme heat wave putting temperatures as high as 102 degrees in the South and Midwest United States has prompted a rash of school closings.

The 16,000-student Dayton school district in Ohio closed for two full days last week, bringing the total number of heat-related closings this school year to six. Temperatures soared to 95 degrees when the district decided to close its doors.

The district has five “calamity” days built into each calendar year, and is responsible for making up any instructional time lost beyond that, said Jill Moberly, a public information officer for the district.

“Before the year begins, our board of education must designate makeup days, and they have identified those dates,” she said. Any further time lost will be tacked onto the end of the school year, which is currently scheduled to end on June 5.

The district is in the middle of a rebuilding plan that will equip all the classrooms with air conditioning by 2010, thereby avoiding heat-related problems in the future.

Meanwhile, the 37,000-student Indianapolis public school district is experiencing similar problems. Only 39 of the district’s 76 schools are equipped with air conditioning, which forced district officials to close schools early two days last week when temperatures reached 94 degrees.

Of the 11 school districts in the state, Indianapolis is the only district that does not have air conditioning in all of its schools.

“Our goal and hope is that people will understand that when we talk about providing air conditioning [in our schools], it’s not a frill,” said Mary Louise Bewley, the director of school and community relations for the district.

Normally, schools are cooled by fans, but it has been a particularly hot summer for Indiana, Ms. Bewley explained.

Because schools were open for half the day, though, the district will not be required to make up for lost instructional time later in the year.

‘Extremely Unusual’

Even with air conditioning, some districts have decided that temperatures are simply too high to hold classes safely.

The 74,000-student Metropolitan Nashville public school district was operating on a half-day schedule for three days last week due to temperatures as high as 105 degrees.

“It is an extremely unusual situation for us,” said Woody McMillin, a spokesman for the district. “For us to have these temperatures for as long as we’ve had them without rain is very rare.”

Even with the air conditioning running, temperatures inside the buildings have climbed to uncomfortable heights. But school officials were most concerned about the level of heat students and faculty endured commuting to and from school.

“We do not have air-conditioned buses,” Mr. McMillin said. “And we were also concerned about the children walking to school.”

The Tennessee state department of education agreed to lump two of the half-days into one full day that the district will need to make up by the end of the year.

“We have five snow days built in, so if we don’t use all of them, we can turn one into a heat day,” Mr. McMillin said. “Or we could use a professional development day, when children wouldn’t usually come to school.”

Athletic Activities Continue

All three school districts have continued to hold athletic practices and games.

“Our athletic directors are trained with working with kids in hot weather,” said Ms. Bewley.

Each state sets its own regulations for conducting athletic activities in extreme heat. Generally, athletic directors are required to give students more breaks and keep them well hydrated. Some districts have pushed practices back until later in the day, or scheduled them for early in the morning, to avoid the heat.

“We’ve eliminated daytime practices, moved them to the evening, and implemented district policy on heat-related play,” Mr. McMillin of the Metropolitan Nashville schools said.

Also, in his district, extra timeouts are built into the games so the athletes can rest more frequently, Mr. McMillin said.

To avoid heat-related school closings at the beginning of the year, some parents have suggested that schools start later in the year, but so far school officials are not looking at any calendar changes.

“We just can’t react to the weather anomalies,” Mr. McMillin said. “You have to look at the long-term temperatures and averages and do the best job you can.”

Events

School & District Management Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: What Did We Learn About Schooling Models This Year?
After a year of living with the pandemic, what schooling models might we turn to as we look ahead to improve the student learning experience? Could year-round schooling be one of them? What about online
School & District Management Webinar What's Ahead for Hybrid Learning: Putting Best Practices in Motion
It’s safe to say hybrid learning—a mix of in-person and remote instruction that evolved quickly during the pandemic—is probably here to stay in K-12 education to some extent. That is the case even though increasing
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Mathematics Webinar
Building Equitable Systems: Moving Math From Gatekeeper to Opportunity Gateway
The importance of disrupting traditional American math practices and adopting high-quality math curriculum continues to be essential for changing the trajectory of historically under-resourced schools. Building systems around high-quality math curriculum also is necessary to
Content provided by Partnership for L.A. Schools

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal CDC: Nearly 80 Percent of K-12, Child-Care Workers Have Had at Least One COVID-19 Shot
About four out of five teachers, school staffers, and child-care workers had first COVID-19 vaccine doses by the end of March, CDC says.
2 min read
John Battle High School teacher Jennifer Daniel receives her COVID-19 vaccine on Jan. 11, 2021. Teachers received their first vaccine during an all-day event at the Virginia Highlands Higher Education Center in Abingdon, Va.
John Battle High School teacher Jennifer Daniel receives her COVID-19 vaccine on Jan. 11at the Virginia Highlands Higher Education Center in Abingdon, Va.
David Crigger/Bristol Herald Courier via AP
Federal Ed. Dept. to Review Title IX Rules on Sexual Assault, Gender Equity, LGBTQ Rights
The review could reopen a Trump-era debate on sexual assault in schools, and it could spark legal discord over transgender student rights.
4 min read
Symbols of gender.
iStock/Getty
Federal Q&A EdWeek Q&A: Miguel Cardona Talks Summer Learning, Mental Health, and State Tests
In an interview after a school reopening summit, the education secretary also addressed teachers' union concerns about CDC guidance.
10 min read
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks during a press briefing at the White House on March 17, 2021.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona speaks during a press briefing at the White House on March 17.
Andrew Harnik/AP
Federal Senators Press Deputy Education Secretary Nominee on School Closures, Lost Learning Time
If confirmed, San Diego Unified Superintendent Cindy Marten would be the Education Department's number two as it urges in-person learning.
5 min read
San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Cindy Marten speaks at Lincoln High School in San Diego during the State of the District Address on Oct. 20, 2015.
San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Cindy Marten would be second in command at the U.S. Department of Education if confirmed as deputy secretary.
Misael Virgen/San Diego Union-Tribune